Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rome day 1

There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age (Sophia Loren)

Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force...When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other...and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. ...Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way (Brenda Ueland)

Rome is sensory overload on a humongous scale. Ancient buildings stand proudly, housing new shops and restaurants. Cobbled streets are filled with small cars parked haphazardly in maze-like complexity. Almost every street corner has a Virgin Mary effigy. Drinking water fountains are littered about the streets on unexpected little squares, with water spurting forth from some olden statue as it has been doing for centuries.

Roarke and Gina had had a week to reconnoitre and were our guides. After settling into our amazing apartment we visited the Pantheon. The original Pantheon of Rome built between 27 & 25 BC, was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa. It was dedicated to 12 gods of heaven and focused on Augustus’ cult. It burned down in about 80 AD. It was rebuilt in about 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian who wanted his temple to be a sort of universal temple where people could worship any and all gods they wished, not just local Roman gods. This would have been keeping with Hadrian’s character — a widely travelled emperor, Hadrian admired Greek culture and respected other religions. The Pantheon was converted to a Christian church in 609 AD and still serves this function.

We had our first cioccolata calda: thick creamy custardy hot chocolate, which is served with a spoon. We were taken to a gelatti shop, where the choice of flavours was enormous. On my first visit I had a scoop of torrone (nougat) and a scoop of crème caramel.

Being extremely tired, I walked around in a surreal daze through the narrow alleyways, down towards Fontana di Trevi, one of the most famous fountains in the world. According to legend a foreigner who tosses a coin into the Fontana di Trevi ensures his or her return to Rome, so we all stood with our backs to the fountain and threw a coin over our left shoulder to set our intentions to return. The scale and beauty of the statues is awe inspiring. The fountain is at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC. It brings water all the way from the Salone Springs (approx 20km from Rome) and supplies the fountains in the historic centre of Rome with water.

There is a sense of confident superiority in the ancient buildings and statues that line the streets of Rome, yet one is seduced, not repelled, by this arrogance…

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